Teaching Tips

Guide To Teaching The Intermediate Syllabus

By the time your students get to the intermediate level  they should be really comfortable with playing the 4 basic hi-hat ostinatos with eighths and sixteenth note bass/snare grooves. They should be confident articulating 16th note rhythms and 8th note triplet rhythms. Technique wise they should be ready to push their doubles strokes to the next level and start playing open rolls at faster speeds.

This level introduces 16th note triplets and 32nd notes into the mix along with new hi-hat ostinatos for our rock beats. The shuffle and several other world grooves are introduced.


The focus on reading is on 16th note triplets and 32nd notes & playing them with our previously studied subdivisons.

Mixing 16th note triplets with 1/4 and 1/8th notes is normally easy for most students. Playing them with 16th notes is often trickier. Check the essential exercise “16th notes to 16 note triplets” for an exercise to help with this… The key is to focus on the 8th note that is common to both subdivisions.

When playing 16th note triplets with 8th note triplets it’s generally easier to just count the 8th note triplet and feel the 16th notes between the 8ths.

Rudiments and Technique

We continue our studies of the paradiddle and it’s variations at this level.  The paradiddle-diddle & double paradiddle get used in the 16th note subdivision rather than triplet form.  This can be used to create interesting licks.

The four stroke ruff is introduced in it’s open and closed form. Teaching it in it’s open form first and then getting students to close it up is normally the way to go.

Double strokes are studied further. We look first at playing double strokes using different subdivisions and then roll rudiments are also introduced. Use these exercises to develop your students double strokes fully using which ever technique you choose. Good double strokes take time to develop. Encourage your students to work on them everyday and to be patient.


Our four basic hi-hat ostinatos are finished off with some 16th note syncopation. The eighth note hi-hat ostinato is studied further to include 16th note triplet bass drum and snare drum rhythms.

Additional Hi hat patterns are introduced at this level – offbeats and combinations of 8ths and 16ths. These can be tricky and require patience to master –  especially the syncopated ones.

Sixteenth note triplet hi hats and 32nd note hi-hat grooves are also explored.

The shuffle is an essential groove for any drummer to learn but it can cause real trouble for some. Taking time to establish a solid bounce feel is essential. Use the Shuffle Development exercise in the Essential Exercises to start your students shuffling right.

A few world grooves are also introduced to develop more variety in the students repertoire.

If your students are up for the challenge, then you can start them on the Beginning Jazz series. The first 5 parts get them playing either snare or bass comps separately. The next five parts get them playing snare and bass comps in the same bar. I wouldn’t suggest trying this until your students are confident with the shuffle. Only swung eighth notes are used in the Beginning Jazz series. We’ll look at playing on the middle partial of the triplet at the upper intermediate level.


Sixteenth Note Fills are explored further at the intermediate level. Sixteenth note sticking patterns along with 3 and 5 note groupings are formally explored used to create very applicable and commonly heard fills.

Sixteenth note triplet fills are also added to the students vocabulary to help add real excitement to their fill vocabulary. It’s important to work slowly with a metronome on this to ensure timing accuracy.

Basic 32nd note fills are also added to fill vocabulary.  Working at 50pm is a good place to start with these, slowly picking up speed.

Essential Exercises

These are support exercises designed to focus on specific areas that often cause trouble or to help build facility on the kit. Often I will use these as warm-up exercises at the start of the lesson.

Double Trouble – An exercise to work on double strokes working through different permutations of 16th note doubles.

Paradiddle, Inverted Paradiddle and Reverse Paradiddle Accents – designed to work hand dexterity and add accents to commonly used paradiddle variations. Great as a warm up – put accents on toms / bass drum & crash cymbals to create more variations.

Shuffle Development – Use this one before attempting the first of the shuffle worksheets with the students. Helps to solidify the bouncy feel needed for the shuffle.

16th notes to 16th note triplets – Students often have trouble moving from 16ths to 16th note triplets. This exercise helps the student to focus on keeping the 8th note that is common to both subdivisions steady.

16th note triplet riffs  – A great exercise for working on hand speed and dexterity and gets them used to rhythms that are very useful for fills.